CASES of dengue fever have continued to surge, with the latest tally at 167,606 nationwide as of July 27, 2019, according to the Department of Health (DOH).
The DOH said 661 patients have died.
"This is one of the highest. The first time that we actually declared a national epidemic. The highest in the last 5 years," said DOH Undersecretary Eric Domingo in an interview.
The DOH declared a national dengue epidemic on August 6.
In just one week, over 20,000 more cases have been monitored, bringing the total number to 167,606 as of July 27 from 146,062 as of July 20, 2019.
In the same period in previous years, there were 69,088 cases in 2018, 65,879 cases in 2017, 84,085 cases in 2016, and 72,627 cases in 2015.
Domingo also noted how the number of regions that have exceeded the epidemic threshold of dengue has now reached 10, from only 7 last week.
The 10 regions are Calabarzon, Mimaropa, Bicol, Western Visayas, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Zamboanga Peninsula, Northern Mindanao, Soccsksargen, and Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Domingo also noted that the National Capital Region and Ilocos Region have already exceeded the alert threshold levels of their respective regions.
"Now, we have 12 of the 17 regions that are getting cases much higher than last year," the health official said.
Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said the road back to the Philippine market for the controversial dengue vaccine Dengvaxia won't be smooth.
According to Domingo, who also serves as the OIC-director general of the FDA, Dengvaxia has to first hurdle the permanent revocation of its Certificate of Product Registration (CPR) slapped by the agency in the wake of the controversy in late 2017.
"We first have to settle the issue whether it can regain its CPR or it can successfully apply for a new CPR. At this time, the revoked CPR is on appeal at the Office of the Secretary," Domingo said.
He said this is regardless of President Rodrigo Duterte's openness to making Dengvaxia available again in the Philippines due to the epidemic.
"At this time, it cannot be brought and used in the country since it has no CPR. And it will have to undergo a thorough assessment before it can regain the CPR," he explained.
If successful, the health official said that will be the only time when discussion can start on whether it can be included in the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) of the DOH anew.
This, he explained, includes the guidelines on who will be qualified to receive the dengue vaccine.
"We have the National Immunization Council, which evaluates, studies, and decide if this should be included in our immunization program. The Council can be convened when necessary," said Domingo.
Dengue is caused by a virus carried by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Symptoms include high fever, stomach pain, muscle pain and severe headache. (HDT/SunStar Philippines)